Home & Garden

How to make gallery wall ideas come to life

All you need is a little patience and a lot of nails.

Living room with orange couch with throw pillows, a dining table, a black lamp, and a gallery wall with six art frames Credit: Getty Images / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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It’s safe to say that decorating is perhaps the most fun part of a new or remodeled space. With empty walls and floors as a blank canvas, the décor options for adding your personality to the home are seemingly endless.

One of the most stylish ways to liven up a living space is by creating a gallery wall, or a collection of hanging items that are carefully curated to fit your style. “It’s the best way to showcase your personality while filling a large amount of space,” says interior stylist Brooke Cloyd.

Gallery walls allow you to show off your favorite art, framed photos, personal ephemera, and quirky pieces that are meaningful to your household. This collection doesn’t have to be limited to just a living room space—you can install one over a staircase, a bare dining room, or even a lackluster laundry room.

While adding a group of hanging wall arts and accent pieces seems like a reasonably easy job, it can take a decent amount of time and planning to perfect the look of the wall. Before taking up the task of creating a gallery wall, here’s what you should know about planning, buying, and arranging pieces for your collection.

Consider the style you want

Style
Credit: Getty Images / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Find inspiration for art or objects that align with your personal style with Pinterest or interior design blogs to get a better sense of what trends are out there.

Patient planning is the name of the game when it comes to curating your gallery wall. You’ll want to be sure your framed art pieces and accessories match the style of your current home.

If you prefer a clean and modern look, or if you don’t know where exactly to start, Cloyd says you should consider a simple grid.

“You will most likely want to collect frames that are the same. When I make modern gallery walls, I use large, sleek frames in matching sizes,” says Cloyd. Keeping the sizing, frames, and color palette consistent adds a sophisticated touch to a formal dining area or upscale living room.

For an extra layer of color and texture, Cloyd recommends switching up the color and finish of the frames.

“For example, you can have all of your frames the same thickness, but you can vary them between black and gold [or] matted and floating,” says Cloyd. “This is how to keep your gallery wall cohesive when your artwork has a lot of variety.” This tiny detail can add a more artistic touch to your gallery wall, all while staying consistent with your style.

For something more eclectic, Cloyd recommends mixing and matching frame sizes, shapes, colors, and textures—this creates a bolder gallery wall that’s sure to draw attention.

When in doubt, start with a centerpiece

Centerpiece
Credit: Getty Images / gorodenkoff

Cloyd says that a centerpiece isn't necessary, but if you're not sure where to start, it can be a helpful guiding point.

If you’re not quite sure where to start with choosing your gallery wall items, Cloyd recommends beginning with a centerpiece. “This is usually the largest piece in your gallery wall that is close to the middle,” says Cloyd. “You can then easily add your smaller pieces around this using the centerpiece as a guide.”

With this strategy, find a piece of art or an object that you feel emulates the style or aesthetic you’re trying to achieve. For a retro feel, consider pop art prints like these vintage-style pieces sold on Etsy. For something with a personal touch, try adding a print of your city’s skyline, like this New York City skyline canvas print sold at Overstock.

You can also look beyond framed art and art prints for a centerpiece—consider a sophisticated accent mirror. This round mirror sold at Wayfair is extremely easy to pair with other wall frames and accents.

Be patient in collecting the right pieces

Collect
Credit: Getty Images / Ondrooo

The fun in searching at vintage and second-hand shops is that you never know what you'll find.

It’s essential to keep in mind that curating the right frames and prints may take time. You don’t have to buy all of your frames or pieces at once, as this may limit you.

Cloyd recommends taking advantage of vintage and second-hand stores to really score some one-of-a-kind treasures for your gallery wall. “Right now, I’m loving vintage gold frames with textured oil paintings,” says Cloyd.

Although older vintage items may end up feeling a bit dated for your taste, Cloyd says not to dismiss small vintage accents as they can make a modern space feel a little more personal. “Alone, these items feel very vintage, but putting them in a gallery wall is a way to modernize vintage pieces,” says Cloyd.

You can also add vintage frames rather than vintage art or objects for something more subtle—older frames tend to have beautiful, intricate details that can bring more texture to a simple gallery wall collection.

Textures
Credit: Getty Images / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Adding extra texture and dimension to your gallery wall makes it feel that much cozier.

Don’t feel confined to just art prints and framed photos for your gallery wall. There are several different accessories and décor pieces you can use to add texture and movement to your wall.

Decorative objects like clocks, mirrors, large hanging letters, and more add an extra something that a traditional framed photo just can’t.

Adding floating shelves can also be a fun way to add some depth to your wall—add a few books or a small plant for an extra decorative splash.

Cloyd tells us she has also used “framed vintage rugs and textured fabrics” to liven up gallery walls. This adds an extra level of cozy texture to make you feel at home. Woven macrame wall hangings are among the trendy wall rugs that homeowners are adding to their gallery walls.

Test it before you install it

Test
Credit: Getty Images /Olexandr Dadyiev

If you're testing your arrangement on your wall, use an adhesive that won't ruin or scuff your paint, such as painter's tape.

So you’ve patiently planned your gallery wall, and you’re eager to finally get it up. Before picking up the hammer and nails, we recommend testing out the arrangement before committing to it.

One way to see if the dimensions and spacing of your gallery wall will look good is to trace it on your wall beforehand. Use a pencil and any paper material to trace your pieces, then cut and tape them to the wall you’re working with.

Take a step back every few moments and evaluate if you want to swap some of the art or arrange it any differently. This is also helpful to do if you’re stuck on how to organize your wall in the first place—play around and get a second opinion on the arrangement ideas.

To get a better idea of how the frames and decorative pieces will complement each other (especially in terms of style and color), Cloyd recommends simply laying them down on the floor and arranging as you would on the wall.

“You can arrange and rearrange until it feels right. If you’re not sure if your arrangement is perfect, walk away from it for an hour or two then come back with a fresh mind,” says Cloyd.

If colors, frames, or pieces are clashing, you’ll be able to notice it this way too. You may ultimately decide to nix one of your pieces that don’t end up working with the rest of your collection—that’s the magic of playing around with your collection without any commitment to your wall quite yet.

Install
Credit: Getty Images / Stockfour

See how many nails, screws, or wall anchors you'll need before installing your wall—this will save you a lot of guesswork.

You’ve gathered your frames and accents and planned out your arrangement—now all that’s left is to install your gallery wall. If your pieces all vary in weight and size, make sure you have the right nails to support them. For heavier pieces, use drywall anchors to ensure they’ll stay put.

Use a tape measure to keep your frames and accessories evenly spaced. Have a level on hand to be certain nothing ends up crooked. Once you’ve determined where your pieces will sit, mark on your wall using something removable, like tape, to indicate where you’ll install screws or nails.

From there, start hanging up your pieces. If your art frames or other decorative pieces don’t have a wire or ring hanger on the back, make sure you install one for a secure fit on the wall. Before you know it, your gallery wall will be complete.

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